Giggling in the Dark

Several times recently I’ve slipped into bed after my husband has gone to sleep. Using a tiny flashlight I crept in quietly so as not to wake him. And then, lying in bed, trying not to squirm too much, I got the giggles.

The first time this happened, I shook the bed so hard that I woke Dan. “I’m sorry, baby! I’m sorry…I’ve got the giggles!”

He mumbled something that sounded like, “Is okay; I unnerstan.”

Really? You understand? How could you when I had no idea what got into me? That is, I knew what I was laughing about but could neither fathom why I was thinking about it nor why it struck me as so very funny at that time of night.

My giggles were triggered by memory of the morning I woke up early and tried to sneak out without waking him. He opened his eyes and said, “Turn off the alarm.”

To get to the house alarm keypad, I had to step up 2 steps, and they are curved. Because I was still half asleep I was staggering a little. I stumbled, began to fall sideways, twisted to avoid the nightstand and landed smack in the middle of my sleepy husband’s back. I jumped off him as quickly as I could and…well, began to laugh.

“What are you doing! Baby, what are you doing!” Dan sat straight up in bed.

Between snorts and giggles, all I could do was apologize and say, “I fell; I fell over.”

I get giggly to the point of tears every time I think about it. And there I was disturbing his sleep a second time.

But then, I like to giggle and I look for excuses to burst out in laughter.

Baby Laughing

Any excuse will do!

It’s not funny to fall and it’s not funny to be rudely awakened but in my mind’s eye, I see the incident from a (nonexistent) viewer’s point of reference. I am standing there watching this woman stagger around and fall on her sleeping husband and it is America’s Funniest Home Video!

Sometimes I will start laughing at the evening news. It’s not usually funny stuff; it may be simply awful; perhaps someone died. But there are elements that send me into a spin.

It might be a teenager jumping up and down on the hood of a car. Or a bathtub left standing after a tornado. Or a misspelled word. Or a mispronounced word. Or a politician’s promise.

I think I’m really looking for an excuse to laugh. (See Make Me Smile, Make Me Laugh for more on that subject.)

Laughing is fun; giggling is great. I only pray it doesn’t hit me in the middle of a church service. And I sure wish I could turn it off when the lights go out at night.

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The School of Hard Knocks

While checking out at the dollar store, I heard a customer ask for an eyeglass repair kit. She asked my checker and then asked another store assistant.

“Um…I don’t think we have anything like that.” Both clerks seemed unsure.

Since I like to be helpful, I butted in and pointed her to the rack with reading glasses. “Most places keep them with those magnifiers,” I offered.

The customer found the little kits and thanked me profusely, calling me “Ma’am.”

I went out of the store with my purchase, thinking, I know stuff! I know more about how retail stores work than the people who work there.

I can’t begin to tell you how much stuff I know, a good deal of it useful.

I know how to trim tree branches properly and I know to add a few grains of salt to the coffee pot when brewing with filtered water. I know to not pop blisters on bad sunburn; to soak ant bites in Epsom salt and I know to face a snarling dog. I know tricks to raise my credit score and I know how to reduce the principal on a loan. I know how to write a will, how to oversee a trust fund and do a tax return for a business. I know how to save seeds from heirloom tomatoes.

I have read and I have listened to advice but mostly I’ve just lived a long time, made mistakes and tried things.


Where do they keep the magnifying glasses?

Some things one has to figure out for oneself

I knew where the eyeglass repair kits are kept because I recently wasted a lot of time looking for a magnifying glass that store clerks said they didn’t think they stocked. (I found one with the readers and one with the office supplies.)

I have worked a total of about twelve years in retail and there’s a certain logic to how stores are organized. I worked as an executive secretary for 30 and as a legal secretary for three. I packed pop bottles back when they were glass. I served up ice cream at Dairy Queen. I baby sat three kids one summer. I have done graphic art for book authors, coal mining entities and municipalities, an architect and an equestrian camp. I know how to bind a book and design a kitchen.

I’ve been poorer than Ol’ Job’s Turkey so I know how to make a meal with beans, rice, cornmeal and powdered milk. I know stuff about living in the woods with no electricity and no indoor plumbing. I know how to cook on a wood stove.

I’ve cruised in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. I know how to get a passport and the best ways to pack for overseas travel. I know a little bit about the airports at Frankfort, Tokyo, Tel Aviv and Hong Kong. And Dallas; don’t forget Dallas!

I am so amazed at how much stuff I know, I think all my kids and grandkids should be calling or texting continually with a stream of questions.

Yet, I also know enough about human nature to know it won’t occur to them to ask me. They will learn things the way I did: by experience, also known as The School of Hard Knocks.

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Is it Worth All the Shouting?

I have often admired people with enthusiasm: folks who gush a bit; the lady who says, “Aw, thank you SO much! I just love it!” when given a little gift. I fear I often come across as unimpressed, unmoved or ungrateful. I may forget to tell guests how glad I am to have them in my home. Even when I say the right things, I have trouble sounding convincing.

My natural demeanor is a little lack-luster. It’s not that I don’t feel things but that I don’t tend to show my feelings. I’m working on sounding more passionate, trying to gush more, and I like to think I’m doing better. When asked to describe me the other day, a friend of mine called me bubbly. That made me smile.

All this in mind and making allowances for my laid-back ways, I surely do get tired when interacting with people who exclaim over every little thing. I find it emotionally exhausting.

When I volunteer to help with a project, does it really deserve, “You are awesome!”? Is a bookmark really something to squeal about? Should the exclamation mark be at the end of every sentence in a text? How many times in life are three exclamation marks allowed? Is “OMG!” really warranted unless we are calling for divine intervention?

Yes, I’m an old lady but these are not children. This generation and the one following seem to be hyped up on adrenaline and going full steam all the time. If they are not shouting enthusiastically about every little good thing in life, it seems they have to be angry about every little assumed slight or offense.

No, not angry, FURIOUS!!! Because he said that she said I should have put my toddler down for a nap before the party. How dare she? She doesn’t know anything!!! Her kids are spoiled brats!!! She’s a (bad word) and I HATE HER!!!

Woman shouting angry to another one

Hyped up on adrenaline and going full steam!

My optimistic hope is that, like children having a dire moment, fury will pass quickly and all be forgotten tomorrow (or after a nap).

My concern is that, left unchecked, childish behavior becomes a pattern hard to overcome. Maybe if we allow the pendulum to swing too far and too often, we’ll never be able to get it under control.

Many years ago, I studied Titus 2:4, where Paul instructs the aged women to “…teach the young women to be sober…” I knew the Old English word “sober” didn’t mean simply not inebriated but I couldn’t believe it meant they were to be somber and glum all the time. So I looked into it. I found the Greek word sophron means self-controlled or of a sound mind.* It’s sort of the opposite of hysterical and out of control.

Yes, if a person is drunk, they are not sober. That is, they are not self-controlled or of a sound mind. Unfortunately, liquor is not the only way to get there. A habit of over-reacting can and will leave us giddy for no reason, frantic with fear, overcome with grief, and raging with fury over a relatively minor offense or perception of offense.

So here I am, quietly admonishing my friends and readers to get a grip, calm down and try not to gush so much.** It may be important.(!!!)



** But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

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What is this Language We Speak?

Indian Paintbrush

I meant to say the Indian paintbrush flowers have taken over the roadsides.

I am fascinated by words, especially English words. English is a conglomeration, picking up words from all over the world. I believe this is particularly true of American English, since the country itself is a hodgepodge of ethnicities.

What we cannot borrow from another country, we invent. I’m thinking particularly of words like thingamabob, smog and television.

As we came into the twenty-first century, everything seemed to escalate and zoom. (Isn’t zoom an invented word?) Suddenly, new words and meanings started popping up every week–words like Google and defrag and cyber and terabyte.

Word meanings evolve also–grow is now something you can do with your business and cell is a synonym for mobile telephone. Gay has changed semantically from meaning happy and bright to referring to homosexuality; the original use has all but disappeared.

This year I’ve not only been helping a first-grader learn to read but I’ve met a family from Afghanistan. Both of these contacts are learning English. Both ventures have made me more keenly aware of the difficulties that entails.

Some things we say simply don’t make sense unless English is a person’s “first language” and they’ve been working with it a very long time.


Blooming brush

What I said: The paintbrushes are blooming?

The other day I told my husband, “The bluebells are almost over but the paintbrushes are blooming.” I imagined the roadside fields of blue being taken over by orange flowers called “Indian Paintbrush” and I suppose he did too. Then I started laughing as I thought about what my Afghani friends might picture.

I read the King James English in my Bible, so I am comfortable with old words, like assay, thwart, fortitude and gird. Not all my acquaintances are as familiar and I try to adjust my writing and my speech according to my readers or listeners.

As a result, sometimes I feel as if I must speak more than one language!

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A Milestone

There are milestones in life: things that change us or that mark our changes, things we’ll remember and reminisce about during maudlin times or family times. A house fire, a divorce, the birth of a first child or first grandchild, deaths, weddings, baptisms and graduations are all milestones of some import.

My husband and I recently joined a senior citizens’ activity center. It felt like a milestone, marking, if not our entry into a certain time of life, at least an acknowledgement of our admission.

I was rather excited when I became eligible to receive discounts at age 55. My husband, who likes to think he looks much younger, was not so enthusiastic. So when a friend told me about the senior center where she works out, I didn’t think Dan would go for it. But it could save us a lot of money when compared to our regular gym, so I pitched the idea. I was surprised when he was willing to investigate.

We were both surprised at the center. It’s practically brand-new; it’s expansive; the fitness room has almost the same equipment we’re used to; it’s more than we hoped for. We joined!

We don't feel like seniors!

We don’t feel like seniors!

Walking in, seeing a patron being dropped off at the door and using a walker to navigate, one of us said, “I can’t believe we’re doing this.” We don’t feel like seniors!

Walking out, one of us said, “I can’t believe we just joined a senior citizens’ center!”

My late mother-in-law often voiced a philosophy that, “You’re only as old as you feel.” For her, the practical application meant, “You’re only as old as you admit to being.” She talked about getting married again (at age 83), going dancing and getting a boob job. She shopped in the Juniors section. She frequently embarrassed us by flirting with men in their 50’s.

Dan and I readily admit that we’re only as old as we feel. Our practical experience is that we may feel quite old for a few days and then get young again. When we moved a houseful of furniture a couple of years ago, we were so sore and exhausted we were sure we must be very old. After a week or so of moaning, we got over it. When one of us gets sick, it seems like it takes a month to recover. We feel ancient but then it goes away.

Joining a senior citizens’ center was a milestone for both of us. It was as if we “got old” in a day. Our goal, though, is to use the work out equipment to stay feeling, looking and able to act young!

Almost every time we visit the center, someone will suggest they have other activities to offer. We could go have a free donut and coffee. We could take a class turning wine bottles into art. We could learn to use a computer. We politely turn them down and go back to work. Those are milestones for another day.


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A Pretty Good Clip

My mobility has been hindered lately by various things. It seems as if I’ve been walking like an old woman for the past several months.

First I got a heel spur, confirmed by x-ray, but not much to be done about it. “Stay off the treadmill,” the doctor advised, “Wear good shoes and take naproxen sodium to relieve the inflammation.” I was hobbling, but only after sitting for a time and when I first got out of bed.

Next I kicked the leg of the sofa and broke my pinky toe. That put me in loose shoes and gave me a decided limp for several weeks. Again, there was not much to be done except endure the pain and wait for healing.

Last Fall I rode a horse on a beach in Mexico. I was amazed what a challenge it was after a 30 year hiatus. I like to have never mounted the beast from the downhill side of a sandy slope and could not have done it without the non-English-speaking fellow’s help. After a couple of minutes in the saddle, I realized the right stirrup was twisted but I could not get off to investigate it because I had no help to get back on. So I rode/sat with my ankle in a bind for over an hour. A strained tendon gave me another limp for another few weeks.

Not long ago, I realized I was walking without pain for the first time in nearly a year. It made me feel so good that I ran across the Wal-Mart parking lot, pushing a cart full of groceries.

The thought hit me again a few days ago: I’m not hurting! So I sped up to a faster walk. It wasn’t a power walk but I was moving along at a pretty good clip and simply feeling wonderful.

Then I walked past a row of shop windows and caught my reflection. What on earth? It wasn’t even close to a power walk, nor was I speeding along. It was just a walk: a normal walk like everyday people walk every day.

race horse on track

It feels like I’m moving along at a pretty good clip.

My realization was such a letdown that I came home and complained to my husband about it. We laughed about my delusion and spent half an hour investigating the etymology of the phrase “moving along at a pretty good clip.”

It occurred to me that the older we get, the faster time flies and maybe that applies to the way we walk also.

When I met my husband, his dark beard was salt and pepper. Now it’s about ninety percent salt and not what one would call a dark beard. How did that happen in six short years? I look at our pictures and realize how much we’ve both aged. Why, a few years ago we were young!

I suppose even though I don’t walk very fast any more, I really am moving along at a pretty good clip.

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A Stream of Water: What It Can Do

Water has this amazing ability to bond to itself. Put a drop of water on very dry earth and it will often simply make a bead and sit there. Unless the earth is really porous and absorbent, it may take several minutes for the water to soak in.

     Once the surface of the dirt is wet, the following drops of water absorb immediately. I notice this when I’m watering plants.

     Pour the water too quickly and it makes a stream, a miniature river, which gouges out a hole and then a tiny ravine. The water runs away, not doing the job you intended. Once the ravine is cut, there will be trouble every time you try to water the plant.

     For four months I’ve been teaching a little first-grade boy to read. I’ve observed that his sharp mind is a bit like dry earth.

     Sometimes I feed him information and it seems to simply sit there. If I’m patient and observant, I will see it eventually “soak in.” If I am not paying careful attention and pour on more information before the first is absorbed, it runs away and begins to cut a ravine, an undesirable habit that is difficult to overcome. Instead of looking at letters and sentence structure, he starts to guess at words and rely too heavily on the pictures.

What a stream of water can do

A stream cuts through a field, one drop at a time.

     I am not this child’s mother; I’m not even his school teacher. As a volunteer, I interact with him about one hour a week. So I can blame any developed learning ravines on other people in his life. Still, I want to have a positive influence and do all I can to help him learn how to learn.

     One drop of information follows another and another, either soaking into his brain to expand his universe or running away together, “like water off a duck’s back.”

     That idea is frustrating and a little alarming. It’s not that I mind wasting time teaching a child who isn’t learning. It’s that I don’t want to be guilty of creating ravines for information to escape, hindering his ability to learn in the future.

     My own first grade teacher had a tremendous impact on my ability to learn. She put in me a desire to do well in school and a confidence that I was capable. She was strict and scary but generous with accolades and encouragement.

     On the other hand, I’ve heard from others about how their teachers laughed or scolded and created in them a stream of disillusionment about learning. They became convinced that they could not learn and lost the desire to try.

     Heads up to all teachers, parents, tutors and volunteers working with kids! Water those thirsty minds with care; don’t be a ravine maker!

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